At least 650 children have been diagnosed with a mysterious and serious hepatitis infection since early April, according to the World Health Organization. The cases, which have so far baffled health officials, have been reported in 33 different countries.
At least 38 children have required a transplant and nine have died, according to a Friday statement from the WHO. There are also 99 cases pending classification.
European countries have reported the majority of cases, with 222 probable cases reported in the UK and Northern Ireland. Cases have also been reported in North America, Argentina, the Western Pacific, Southeast Asia, and the Eastern Mediterranean region.
Based on case data in Europe, 75% of children were under 5 years of age. Of the 181 cases analyzed for adenovirus, 60% were positive. Of the 188 cases tested for COVID-19, 12% were positive. And of the 63 cases that had COVID vaccination data, 84% were not vaccinated.
In this outbreak of severe acute hepatitis, cases have been more severe and “a higher proportion develop acute liver failure compared to previous reports of acute hepatitis of unknown aetiology in children,” the WHO said.
“While adenovirus is a plausible hypothesis as part of the mechanism of pathogenesis, further investigation of the causative agent is ongoing; adenovirus infection (which usually causes self-limited mild gastrointestinal or respiratory infections in young children) does not fully explain the clinical picture. more severe condition observed with these cases,” the WHO said.
Earlier this week, CBS News spoke with the family of a A 2-year-old boy who was diagnosed with the severe type of hepatitis and underwent a liver transplant at M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.
Before Baelyn Schwab’s diagnosis was confirmed, the family “had no idea what was going on” for the first three days she was hospitalized, her mother, Kelsea Schwab, said.
“Then all of a sudden the next day came, and everything went well. [into] chaos,” he said. “Their labs went through the roof. Neurologically, she wasn’t 100% there. It was very hard. You see your son deteriorating in front of your eyes like overnight.”
The cause of the outbreak remains under investigation and the WHO classifies the global risk level as moderate.
The CDC says that parents should watch for the following symptoms:
- loss of appetite
- abdominal pain
- dark urine
- light colored stools
- joint pain
- jaundice (yellowing of the skin)